Sho Dan Essay, Year 2000
Dr. Andrew Jin
In this essay I will state my personal interpretation of the underlying values and principles of Seikido, based on my own observations during the past, almost five years that I have been a student of this school of martial arts. It is an interpretation because one is never explicitly told, nor is there any written statement of the philosophy of Seikido. It is personal because each student must arrive at his or her own interpretation through individual reflection. I respect the opinions of my fellow students and I speak only for myself.
Seikido literally means “the correct spirit way.” I believe this is statement of fundamental purpose. The goal of Seikido is to cultivate a correct attitude – towards oneself, towards other people, towards the world that one lives in; in all that one does. Physical training and acquisition of physical skills are, of course, central to the study of Seikido, but these are means to an end and not ends to themselves. The process of physical training is a model for one’s approach to education, life-long learning and self-improvement. The physical training clearly has direct benefits. Among them – fitness and health, self-defense skills, enjoyable recreation, social networking and, if one is so inclined, sporting competition and the acquisition of job skills of one intends to pursue a career in the military, law enforcement, security or teaching of martial arts. I must admit, when I began studying Seikido I was attracted by the prospect of some of these benefits, in particular physical fitness, self-defense and recreation. Somewhere along the way, I began to understand that although I was getting such benefits, they did not explain why I continued to study Seikido or why Seikido is worth studying. I have never had an aptitude for athletics and, even after years of training, my self-defense skills were still modest. As for physical fitness and recreation, these I could have obtained elsewhere, perhaps more conveniently too. However, to focus on immediate personal gain would be missing the point. It is also a short-signed and selfish way of thinking which is contrary to the spirit of Seikido.
Seikido promotes a system of values and beliefs which do not necessarily provide any immediate advantage to the practitioner. In fact, following the correct path may incur short-term costs, sometimes painful. But it is the right thing to do.
Seikido teaches the student to treat others as one would want to be treated. This means respecting other people’s rights, being helpful and generous in accommodating their needs, being polite and considerate of the feelings of others.
Seikido promotes an attitude of responsibility. Personal responsibility proceeds from a foundation of self-respect. A belief that you as an individual are important; that what you say and do matters, to yourself and to others, and from self-efficacy, a belief that the choices which you voluntarily and consciously make will determine what happens. The ability to predict the consequences to oneself and to others is a matter of attitude. Responsibility includes honesty; telling the truth and keeping promises. Not to do so represents denial of ownership of the consequences of one’s words and actions. Responsibility also includes striving for self-knowledge, of what one is capable of, for better or worse, and of one’s own limitations. Such self-knowledge enables a person to effectively predict consequences, exercise restraint and self-control, and make commitments that one can fulfill.
Seikido teaches respect for legitimate authority. We owe respect, loyalty and obedience to our parents, elders, teachers and to the law. This does not mean blind, unthinking obedience, because all persons of authority are human and capable of error, and ultimately, every individual is responsible for his or her own decisions and actions. Respect for authority also works both ways. For those of us in positions of authority, we owe a duty of care to our children, our students and other who are counting on us.
Seikido teaches sportsmanship. A correct, sportsmanlike attitude means respect for the rules and for the authority of the games officials; courtesy towards fellow competitors (including opponents) because one would want the same for oneself; politeness and consideration for the feelings of others as one graciously defeat or victory; and mindfulness of one’s responsibility towards younger or more junior participants who are watching and learning from the example set by their more experienced colleagues.
Seikido teaches the value of hard work. Physical training demonstrates the effectiveness of discipline, dedication and persistent effort. All goals worth achieving require hard work and the value of the outcome is in direct proportion to the effort needed to produce it. Some of us are born with greater gifts or talents achieve to a higher standard.
Seikido means respect for education. Learning is a life-long process. It never stops because there is always more that a person can learn. With learning comes an obligation to share knowledge, to teach if one is capable or to do what one can support the learning process for others. As practitioners of the martial arts of Seikido we are custodians of ancient and sacred knowledge; part of the cultural heritage of humankind. This knowledge cannot be preserved in books. It lives in the people who practice it. It is our responsibility to preserve this knowledge, to protect it from misuse and to pass it on effectively to our children and to future generations.
Finally, Seikido promotes an attitude of open-mindedness; a broadening of one’s perspective beyond the immediate, beyond just oneself. This means thinking about consequences – for other, for the future, balance and moderation. Considering and respecting different points of view naturally leads a person towards balance and moderation, and respect for life and nature. Broadening one’s perspective also means thinking about when my parents taught me a Chinese proverb.
The first two words, “Xiu shen” form the Chinese name that my wife and I gave our eldest daughter. Translated, the proverb says,
“Cultivate self, orderly house, govern the country, peace under heaven.”
Cultivating oneself is the essential first step that enables a person to take care of a family, to participate in a civil society and to contribute to greater natural order. To study Seikido is to cultivate oneself.
This is why I study Seikido.